IDEO Seminars

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We currently offer four seminars:

  1. A public seminar, devoted to the Arab-Muslim culture. About two sessions monthly, either in Arabic, or French or English. Free of charge and open to all. Subscribe here to receive the invitations. Click here to read the reports of the previous sessions.
  2. A joint seminar al-Azhar-IDEO in Islamic Studies for the French-speaking students at al-Azhar University. Click here to read the reports of the previous sessions. This seminar is organized as part of the cooperation between us and al-Azhar University.
  3. An introductory seminar to Islamic philosophy and theology. One session weekly, in English, for the Institute’s fellows.
  4. A research seminar for the members of the Institute.

No one will be saved if all are not saved

Guillaume de Vaulx

Doctor of Philosophy and IDEO member

icon-calendar 12 December 2017

It is impossible to hold these three statements at the same time: 1) “God wants all people to be saved”, 2) “God shows people a path of salvation”, and 3) “Anyone who does not follow this path cannot be saved”. Either God wants the salvation for all, in which case He cannot impose only one path of salvation; or He imposes a particular path, in which case He risks that some will not follow it. And in any case, whatever the revealed path, it is only given to a given group, at a given time, condemning those who lived prior to or far from the place of this revelation.

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The Plans for the City of the Dead in Cairo

Ahmed Gomaa

Doctor from al-Azhar University

icon-calendar 28 November 2017

The city of Cairo has this special feature of having neighborhoods in cemeteries where you can also find mosques, schools for teaching the Qurʾān, steam rooms, and palaces, which amazed Ibn Ǧubayr (d. 614/1217) in his Riḥla. This phenomenon, which began with a combination of circumstances in the Fatimid era (beginning in the 4th/10th century), became a conscious decision on the part the Mamluks who deliberately built houses in these quiet neighborhoods starting in the 7th/ 13th century.

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The word āmīn in Arabic

Jean Druel

Director of IDEO

icon-calendar 7 November 2017

In his short treatise entitled A glitter in the debate about the word āmīn used in supplication and its rules in Arabic, Ibn al-Ḫaššāb al-Baġdādī (d. 567/1172) presents the state of the art of the grammatical knowledge on the word āmīn in his time. All grammarians agree that āmīn is not an Arabic word, but a Hebrew one (or Persian, or Syriac), which is however well attested in the Ḥadīṯ: the Prophet and his companions would conclude the recitation of the first sūra, al-Fātiḥa, by saying āmīn. This situation has triggered the curiosity of both Qurʾānic commentators and grammarians, who have studied the following issues: the validity of both forms, long āmīn and short amīn; the part-of-speech āmīn belongs to; its meaning; and the possibility that āmīn be a name of God.

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Certainty and probability, from theology to the ‘servant’ sciences

Ahmad Wagih

​​Doctor in Islamic Philosophy, Faculty of ​Dār al-ʿUlūm, Cairo University

icon-calendar 18 octobre 2017

Muslim theologians (al-mutakallimūn) relied on the concepts of ‘certainty’ (al-qaṭʿiyya) and ‘probability’ (al-ẓanniyya) to build their theological argumentation and classify knowledge, in order to distinguish between what could be relied on and what could not. Practically speaking, however, each theological school reached different conclusions about what is certain and what is probable in their knowledge, thus leading to the differences between these schools on the mere definition of ‘certainty’ and ‘probability’.

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Historical Definitions of wasaṭiyya

Seminar al-Azhar University and the IDEO

icon-calendar  30 September 2017

On September 30th, the fourth meeting of our cooperative seminar with al-Azhar for this year took place. The chosen topic was the historical definitions of “wasaṭiyya”, usually translated as “the middle path.”

Three speakers presented their research on this topic: Ms. Inès Ata from the Department of Human Sciences (for women), Mr. Tarek Amin from the Department of Language and Translation (for men), and brother Jean Druel, from the IDEO. Each speaker reiterated the fact that every Islamic movement believes they are on “the middle path”, as compared to the extremes they condemn, whether they be secularist, literal, or violent extremes, or between tafrīṭ (indifference) and ġulū (exaggeration).

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Excavation of an Umayyad castle

Jean-Baptiste Humbert

Archaeologist at the Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem

icon-calendar 2 May 2017

Archeology consists of luck and surprises. By searching for traces of the Aramean people (often mentioned in the Bible, but not well known), Jean-Baptiste Humbert, OP became interested in the site of Mafraq in the north of Jordan in 1986.

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An epistemological shift: From Sunna to Šarīʿa and the breach of modern times

Rocio Daga Portillo

Professor of Islamology at Munich University

icon-calendar  28 mars 2017

It is striking to note that in the Qurʾān and the oldest texts the term Sunna is used more often than the term Šarīʿa in order to mean the law. The word Sunna used to refer to the oral law transmitted by the tradition and the forefathers. For Christian and Muslim authors, Sunna it is part of the non written revelation. Starting with the eleventh century, an epistemological shift happened: Sunna was canonized as a written text and the word Šarīʿa takes the meaning of the Islamic law, along to the expression aḥkām al-islām. Modern authors such as Ḥasan al-Bannā and Sayyid Quṭb progressively used the term Šarīʿa to refer to the corpus of written laws.

Rationality and Affectivity in Religious and Extremist Discourse: The Model of Fraternity

A closed seminar al-Azhar University and the IDEO

  25 March 2017 

On March 25th, the second meeting between the IDEO and the DEIF (Department of Islamic Studies in French) in the School of Languages and Translation (for Men) at Al-Azhar University was held. The meeting focused on “Rationality and Affectivity in Religious and Extremist Discourses: The Model of Fraternity,” which meant to delve deeper into topic launched at the first meeting, “extremism,” by discussing the specific religious value of “fraternity.”

The first lecture, given by Hazem al-Rahmany, a student of DEIF, began by giving an overview of the call to a universal fraternity as found in the fundamental texts of Judaism, Christianism, and Islam. He compared this “cosmic call” to the current institutional dialogues. If those of Vatican (John Paul II, Pope Francis) or the sheikh’s of Al-Azhar (Aḥmad al-Ṭayyib, Muṣṭafā al-Marāġī) were to pursue this perspective, extremist organizations such as Daesh would be characterized as in contradiction to this “call”, as they represent a restrictive fraternity which excludes non-believers, even members of the same biological family.

The second lecture was given by Hind Amin, a teaching assistant in the faculty of Human Sciences, and holds Master’s Degree in Translation after her translation of the book Le Terrorisme, by Arnaud Blin. Hind concentrated on the question, “Does Religious Discourse Lead to Extremism?” She presented four mechanisms of religious discourse: (1) the mix between religion and thought, (2) the return to a primary universal principle, (3) foundations based on sacred ancestors and (4) peremptory statements or authoritative arguments. She then proposed an argument: extremist discourse has its origins in the revolutionary ideologies of the twentieth century as taken up by decolonization movements. Islamism is situated in this general historical continuity, and has been strengthened through specific causes found the Arabic world (The question of Palestine, the Iranian Revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan).

The third lecture was given by Rémi, a member of IDEO. He presented a historical study of “fraternity” and its uses in the West since its Greek origins, which already contained a duality between limitations on a community (the “city”) and universalism (first the Stoics, then the Neo-Pythagoreans). In the developments of Christianity, where relations were rooted in the “home of Spirit” and calls for a “new creation”, saw the sense of the fraternity shrinking from Christian communities to congregations only. The idea of “fraternity” then underwent the criticism of Luther who, however, failed to re-universalize it, confining it to a “holy fraternity in baptism”. It is the pietism of Johan Arndt which, in the seventieth century, returns to a spiritual fraternity, and in the end be secularized by the Freemasons and the French Revolution. Rémi then proposed a Christian theology of fraternity. By distinguishing an original “fraternal love,” he used the fratricidal quarrels of the Bible to show that this love is not original, but rather must always to be built. It is a reality of the Kingdom of Heaven of which is necessary to be prepared for and to build. Rémi was then finally able to make a climactic point which showed how fraternity was negated in nationalist thinking: religious discourse affirms fraternity as a Divine grace which must be realized everywhere; extremist discourse hoards it and distributes it selectively.

The discussion that followed was very rich, thorough, critical, and by the admission of all, was a sign of the creation of a truly common reflection. One of the points of departure was if “siblings” could be utilized as a model of fraternity: Is fraternal love an origin to be found, or is it an eschatological aim? Is Cain imprinted, by nature, with envious hate, or is it a disfigurement of an original purity of siblings? Are the brothers in a relationship of love or necessity? Should fraternity really be used as the model of the universal love-relationship? Is there not a paradox in the pretense to a universal fraternity, knowing that the solidarity it demands risks being totally dissolved? Is not the reference to an original family (implied in the idea of “fraternity”), like the concept of heritage, simply a conservatism that fears a confrontation with modernity which promotes the contrary: the self-determination of the thinking subject and of the political community?

Cooperation with the University of al-Azhar

On November 27, 2016, we had the pleasure to finally sign a cooperation agreement with al-Azhar University, with their two French sections, one in the Faculty of Language and Translation (for men) and one in the Faculty of Human Sciences (for women). Negotiations had been ongoing since March 2015. The friendship and perseverance of the students and teachers were stronger than the administrative and ideological reservations. We will now be able to plan activities in common.

The first two meetings of the steering committee, established by a cooperative agreement between the University of al-Azhar and the IDEO, took place on January 11th and 14th.  We have agreed to organize a monthly seminar to address “extremism: history, definition, and diagnosis”. In a second phase, we would like to plan common activities to meet the challenge of extremism.